Handhelds without hassles

These days, Michael Flynn says he loves waking up in the morning because he has returned to something he is passionate about — developing code.

If his name seems familiar to you it’s not surprising. For many of his 17 years in the IT industry he worked at Compaq Canada, as the marketing manager

for developer tools with Microsoft Canada Co.

However, earlier this year he made a brazen decision to leave Microsoft and establish fingertipWare, a brand new company specializing in software and hosting services for the burgeoning handheld computer market.

“”Ironically, I created a lot of the C++ application framework starting over six years ago. So, when I formed the company, it was already based on a lot of work I had done while I was still working at Compaq,”” said Flynn, partner, product development at Toronto-based Fingertipware.

“”That’s when handheld computers first came to be, and I immediately fell in love with the platform.””

Flynn formed the company in July and has formed an equal partnership with Tim Grimes, an old friend and former account executive at Compaq, who now handles the business development side of Fingertipware.

The company focuses on providing business services to the mobile professional, especially those using a Windows CE platform, said Flynn. “”So ultimately, what we are doing is creating a number of applications for people who are in a mobile type of job. This would cover expenses, time and billing, sales data, product information, and it provides a real-time ability to connect into a database and bring this information down, or upload new information to those remote servers.””

There are two essential pieces to Fingertipware’s service, Flynn explained. The first part is the software, which integrates into a company’s corporate enterprise system and existing applications.

“”The second half — which is really where I think we provide a differentiation in the market and a new place — is that we will actually host all that information. So we create the entire infrastructure for a business in a portal, ASP-hosted environment. We provide the client software for those sales people, those contractors, those service people in the field,”” Flynn said.

“”The company that we are working with doesn’t have to worry about all of the hosting of those servers. So the cost of the servers and the software, and along with that the most important stuff like the security of the data, the backups, all those good things — we own all that.””

Fingertipware has a fully hosted environment running in Markham, Ont., which Flynn says can provide hosting services for the mobile needs of companies of all sizes.

“”It totally relieves the burden of maintaining an application environment for a small and medium sized company,”” said Flynn, who gave an example of how a salesperson with a Pocket PC could use Fingertipware’s services in the field.

“”Try to picture having a device in your hand that you can turn on with no boot time. You tap a button, it connects over the Internet, brings down all your product information, builds a quote on the spot for the customer. Instantly the information is sent back to the portal.””

From this portal, a business manager could use any browser-based device to keep track of service people and events throughout the day, he said.

Right now the company is in its early stages, but has already developed mobile applications for use in the health care industry, and has other types of customers in the works — including one in the financial industry, Flynn said.

Since the advent of Web services, and the saturation of handheld computers in the market, the possibilities of this type of service are endless, he believes.

“”I had been thinking about (starting this company) for at least a year. Before I worked at Compaq I had been developing it for many years — so working independently as a software developer is not new to me by any means,”” he said.

“”There’s the creativity, and then there’s the overwhelming sense of personal accomplishment when you finish building something. That is what I terribly missed, and I had to have those things back in my life,”” he said.

“”I would rather try and fail, and be happy … then be rich and never have that feeling of creativity again.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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